The Castle, September 2000 - by Jock Finlayson
Yes, it was that time of the year again - the Castle was on the program, the Mecca for all bushwalkers, the Big One, the walk all of us should tackle at least once - some say only once! Every step is up, up, up. Eleven hardy souls set out on a very fine morning. Some were a wee bit seedy from too much red wine the night before, methinks, and needless to say the Master of Song - our very own Ulladulla Jim (Scarsdale) - had been in fine voice. He had come up with songs I had not heard since Adam was a boy. We all appreciated the opportunity to sing along with his wide selection of songs.
With Gordon leading the way we were soon on a slow, methodical climb - but with a nice chit-chat, as Shoalhaven Bushwalkers are inclined to do. Some do more talking than walking, but that is par for the course, and it is rather nice to socialize. How else would we know that Cyril's leeks are coming on, or how well John 'Fred Astaire' Tyssen is progressing with his dance steps, or how many seeds Harry has stashed in his pack?
But alas, from the moment we hit the sleepers on the climb up to the Saddle there was little chit-chat - only the sound of heavy panting (of the painful kind). The steps seemed to go on forever. We were thankful to see the Monolith Valley turnoff at the top. After a wee cup of tea we swung right, along the edge of the cliff-line to the base of the Castle.
Now the fun starts, we thought. This is what we came for - the climb to the summit! Near the top we looked up to find about twenty feet of half-inch hemp rope that had seen much better days, but we had no need to fear. Leader Gordon took off like a shot and with the skills of a mountain goat he and Colin Hancock had a secure, nylon rope dangling down to us. With only a wee bit of trepidation we all made the summit! We celebrated with a nice cup of tea and then made our way to the Visitors Book, which was duly signed. Photos were taken, and so was lunch, then we started back.
Some say it was more difficult coming down the rope. I can vouch for sure that Yuriko had a really 'swinging' time. One other lady - no names, no pack drill - had to walk backwards to Base Camp because her pants were a wee bit 'cheeky' after they ripped on a rock. So the next time you see the Castle on the program - go for it! Your soul will not regret it - but the rest of your body will.
Go for it anyhow!